Snowy Owls and Seals:  The Beauty of the Delmarva Seashore in Winter

For those who have visited or who live in Bethany Beach and the Delmarva Beach Region, we know the pleasures of the seashore in the warm weather; but, there is a certain peace and beauty all of its own here in the winter. From spectacular sunrises and sunsets to viewing snow-covered dunes, the off-season in Bethany Beach and areas nearby is a sight to behold. This winter has provided some special and unique opportunities to enjoy wildlife here, particularly with the recent sightings of snowy owls and seals. 

The snowy owls, which have not been spotted here since 2005, started appearing in Delaware this past Thanksgiving. The owls have been seen at the Cape Henlopen State Park and areas around the Indian River Inlet. It is not unusual to see birders and photographers who have pulled off the road as they are eager to catch a glimpse and a photo. 

Above photo taken in the Savages Ditch area by Jim White, courtesy of www.delawarenaturesociety.org

The enthusiasm over these special birds is that they primarily live in the high Arctic. They rarely fly as far south as they have this year. Local birding organizations include the Sussex Bird Club and Delmarva Ornithological Society, and both provide resources and information about the owls. The Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge will be conducting a January Birding Field Trip on Thursday, January 23, 2014; and there is hope that a snowy owl will be spotted. 

Above photo courtesy of www.ocean-city.com

Meanwhile, to the south in Ocean City and Assateague, harbor seals have been making appearances on the beach. Their favorite spots are the beaches, jetties, and even docks or piers near the waterside. As a variety of species of seals will migrate through the area, it provides yet another opportunity to appreciate wildlife on the Delmarva seashore

As casual observers enjoy seeing the seals and photographing them, marine experts advise to stay 100 feet back and to not disturb the animals. While most of these seals are healthy, if you do notice one that appears injured or in distress, you can contact the National Aquarium’s Stranding Hotline at 410-373-0083, or the Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) at 800-628-9944. The Maryland Coastal Bays Program also has a link for reporting seal sightings on its website at www.mdcoastalbays.org.